Kentucky Wildcats: Big Blue connections to NBA Finals


With Kentucky’s success in the NBA, they currently have a player on more than half of the league’s rosters. Oddly enough, of the two teams that are squaring off in the NBA finals, neither have a UK player on the roster. But thanks to some rich bluegrass basketball history, UK does have connections to both teams. If you don’t have a team to root for yet, maybe this will help determine where your loyalty lies.

Miami Heat

Jun 7, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) handles the ball during practice before game 2 of the 2014 NBA Finals at Spurs Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Previously Signed UK players:

Rex Chapman (1995-1996)

Jamal Mashburn (1997-2000)

Antoine Walker (2005-2007)

Derek Anderson (2006)

Josh Harrellson (2012-2013)

Other factors:

LeBron- LBJ is a friend of Calipari- he has attended games and Tweeted in support of the Cats. He has also appeared in various photos with Cal. He’s also been the ”Y” at Rupp- that’s the real deal. On top of all that, Kentucky has their own pair of “UK” LeBron Nike kicks each year.

Photo By: Kentucky Sports Connection

Photo By: Kentucky Sports Connection

Pat Riley- Played at Kentucky (under Adolph Rupp) from 1964-1967 in both basketball AND football. He won numerous SEC awards in both sports and is one of the few UK players to make two or more First Team All-SEC teams. His jersey (#42) is retired and hangs in Rupp. He was drafted in the first round of the ’67 NBA draft and the 11th round of the ’67 NFL draft. After coaching and broadcasting for the league for a few years, he became president and head coach of the Heat in 1995. He steped down from coaching in 2003, but remained president. Although he was responsible for trading Jamal Mashburn away from Miami…he was cool enough to trademark “three peat” so we’ll let it go.

Photo from: Big Blue History

Photo from: Big Blue History

We used their plane- the basketball team this past season used the Miami Heat private team-plane to travel to Baton Rouge for the LSU game this season due to inclement weather. Per Calipari’s twitter, he sat in Dwayne Wade’s seat.

Also, the Heat’s website once called the ’96 Wildcats “The Best Ever”. Read here.

In fact, the two get compared quite a bit.

San Antonio Spurs

Jun 7, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks to his team during practice before game 2 of the 2014 NBA Finals at Spurs Practice Facility. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Previously Signed UK players:

Derek Anderson (2000-2001)

Louie Dampier (was at Kentucky with Pat Riley) (1976-1979)

Clearly Kentucky has much deeper roots in Miami, but it should be noted that neither team has drafted a Kentucky player. Any UK to the NBA Finals connections I missed? Tweet them at me!

Tags: 2014 NBA Finals Antoine Walker Basketball Articles Derek Anderson Featured Jamal Mashburn John Calipari Josh Harrellson Kentucky Basketball Kentucky Wildcats Kentucky Wildcats Basketball LeBron James Louie Dampier NBA Finals Nba Finals 2014 Pat Riley Popular Rex Chapman University Of Kentucky

Comments are closed.